Former Oklahoman City Editor Mark Hutchison, who battled paralysis with the same incredible vigor that he used to exhort reporters into action, died Wednesday. He was 49.
Hutchison struggled with health issues for some time and died about 11 a.m. in an Oklahoma City hospital, family members said.
The news business is all about speed and Hutchison was a master of instilling urgency in young reporters.
“Hurry!” Hutchison would bark as deadlines approached.
Then he would chuckle as reporters furiously hammered away on their keyboards, struggling to meet his demands.
In one of life's cruel ironies, Hutchison later would lose his ability to hurry in a tragic 2007 fishing accident.
He and a group of friends had gone fishing at a remote spot on the Glover River in McCurtain County when Hutchison slipped, struck a rock, and tumbled into the river, landing face down in 4 inches of water.
Paralyzed from the chest down, Hutchison somehow managed to push his nose up out of the water.
After 30 minutes to an hour of hollering for help, one of his friends finally heard him and came to his rescue.
The accident changed Hutchison's physical abilities forever, but it never sapped the tenacity with which he approached life.
Rehabilitation workers marveled at his determination, and in 2009 Hutchison was one of three Oklahomans presented with the Courage Award by the Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Hospital.
Hutchison said at the time that the accident and recovery had left him a different man — that from that point on he measured life in small triumphs, like holding a spoon, doing laundry, cooking and changing the sheets on his bed without help.
And he made a commitment to spend more time with his three daughters.
“I'm much more humble and appreciative of the smaller things,” he said then. “All I did was recover from an accident so I could take care of my children. That's the No. 1 priority for me.”
Daughters Brooke, Brandi and Bethany were the loves of his life.
The full depth of that love shone through in a story Hutchison wrote in 2008 about a deer hunting trip he took with daughter Brandi a year and a half after the accident.
Hutchison was an avid deer hunter — downing deer with a rifle, black powder rifle and bow and arrow before the accident.
Paralysis might have deterred a less determined man from continuing to hunt, but Hutchison used it as an opportunity to share his passion with his daughter.
Camouflaged and set up in a blind, Hutchison and his daughter surveyed the landscape until Brandi spotted at least 20 deer along a tree line.
Brandi grabbed a makeshift gun rest — two broom handles held together by a piece of wire — and held it for Hutchison while he secured the .270-caliber rifle, picked out a large deer and fired from about 100 yards.
“We had our first deer together,” Hutchison wrote. “115 pounds. We high-fived.
“On this December afternoon with my daughter, I wasn't disabled. I was walking on air,” he wrote.
Hutchison was born at St. Mary's Hospital in Enid. He graduated from Enid High School in 1981 and received a bachelor of science degree in journalism from the University of Kansas at Lawrence in 1986.
He worked three years as a police and area reporter for the Enid News & Eagle before joining The Oklahoman as a reporter in 1989.
Hutchison worked his way up through the ranks, serving as a staff writer, chief of the Lawton bureau, assistant state editor, metro editor and city editor.
Following his accident, Hutchison returned to the newspaper to work as the digital news editor and watchdog editor, before worsening health problems forced him to accept disability retirement.
Hutchison is survived by his three daughters, Brooke, Brandi and Bethany; four siblings, Kay Goldstein, of Altus, Brad Hutchison, of Oklahoma City, James Hutchison, of Edmond, and Anne Gerszewski, of Enid.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Melvin and Bess Hutchison, of Enid.
Family members said a memorial fund to assist with his children's education will be established.
Much more could be written, but the voice of Hutchison calls: “Hurry.”
Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Sunday at